I grew up without a mom. That’s probably one of the most defining characteristics of who I am today. I think who I turned out to be, for both the good and bad (though I think mostly for the bad), has a lot to do with the fact that I didn’t have much female influence (aside from my dad’s various girlfriends who attempted to temporarily fill the role) during my formidable years. It’s also something that makes me very sad, especially now as I attempt to fill that role myself.
I remember aching for a mother at times. I used to go to a friend’s house after school and her mother was always there, always with a snack to welcome her kids home from school. The house was always clean. The laundry was always done. And there was something tasty for supper (which they invited me to stay for often). She baked cookies at Christmas time and sent me home with a plate. She complimented me on my manners. She was kind. She was the epitome of motherhood for me. And I yearned for that. Of course I do realize now that “mom” can be so much more than the Donna Reed stereotype, but I still find myself remembering her and remembering how I so longed to have that for myself.
I would associate random things with “mom” like hands being wiped on a dishtowel after chopping up carrots, or a bathroom cabinet full of make-up, or pretty clothes hanging in the closet, or simply just how women smelled. I loved the way women smelled. When I was fourteen, I found some court documents from the custody battle my parents had over me that hurt me deeply and profoundly, especially in terms of just wanting my own mother, and I wrote a poem that started, “Give me the scent of a mother, which I can never have.”
It wasn’t until nearly a decade later that I really realized I could never really have a “mom.” The time had passed for me and that was just a fact of life. But I still haven’t gotten over it.
Healing comes in different ways, though, and I’ve discovered that B has, in some ways, given me this gift of embracing “mom,” though maybe not in the original way I had wanted. When he asks me to read a book, or nurse, or sometimes just wants to know, “Where mama go?” even though I’m just around the corner, I am reminded that I am this thing that I have idolized my whole life. And many times when he lets out a little, “mama,” sometimes for no reason other than to just say it, I’m reminded of this. I’m reminded of the fact that I can give B something so precious and so wonderful.
I can be his mom.
And I’m thankful.